An argument for animal rights and welfare

All lives matter

Earth, this giant space rock of dirt and water we find ourselves on is teeming with all sorts of life. There is life in almost every corner of it. From the hottest deserts to the iciest tundras, life can be found everywhere. Apart from humans, a large majority of the life on this planet are animals. They come in all shapes and sizes; Unique, beautiful and sometimes bizarre. Animals make up a huge part of the general ecosystem that exists on earth. They play vital roles in keeping things together.
We exist side by side with animals and man being the fiercest beast of all its ingrained into the nature of man to take and destroy as he pleases. In the course of this essay, I will be talking about the reason animal life should be protected and valued.
The argument for animal rights and welfare is a mostly philosophical one but that doesn’t diminish the importance of talking about the issue.


Let’s get to the center of this argument: “Sentience”. Sentience is the state of being sentient and according to Oxford dictionary, the word sentient is defined as “the ability to perceive or feel things”.
This is true for animal life. Animals are subjectively able to feel or perceive the natural world and occurrences to it. They can suffer. They can experience pain and pleasure. In more complex animals it goes beyond that. Some animals have been observed to a certain capacity to even experience emotions such as grief and happiness. Some animals are even capable of going through trauma. Sentient animals possess minds. They have wants, preferences and desires. It may not be to the level or complexity to that of humans but it exists all the same. The next thought going through someone’s head as they read this now is “What about plants, are they not sentient?” The simplest shortest possible answer to this is no. Plants are not sentient. Response to stimuli doesn’t equate sentience although it is a characteristic of living things. Plants do not possess a central nervous system or any framework complex enough to achieve sentience in an organism (e.g benzodiazepine receptors). Plants can’t posses desires, wants or even biological features necessary for the feeling of suffering. Some plants may be aware (meaning they can respond to basic stimulus) but can’t by definition be sentient. Sentience is an evolutionary outcome in certain animals and human beings. It’s basic purpose is to defend and cause said creatures to take action instantaneously in response to danger or apparent suffering. Plants are unable to do this. Most plants can’t act unless acted on by an external force.


Now the that the concept of sentience has been explained the next course of action is to talk about the phenomenon that is birthed from the lack of recognition of sentience in animals; Speciesism.
So what is speciesism? It’s a form of discrimination against animal life forms. The main fight for animal rights and welfare is the right for an animal to live, free from exploitation. Animals like humans, have a basic right to life but with speciesism like most -isms someone is always at the shorter end of the stick. The gist of speciesism involves treating certain animals or species with a different moral obligation than others. E.g you get a dog, you think dogs are far too adorable or innocent to be killed or eaten but when it comes to cows, it really doesn’t matter because they’re just “COWS”.
Speciesism doesn’t just happen. Certain factors exist that create speciesism. From my observations it always stems from these two:
Indoctrination
Compartmentalization


Let’s talk about indoctrination. What does this mean? Simply put indoctrination refers to teaching someone or people beliefs without critical thought. Indoctrination is something that is usually passed on from generation to generation in culture. Speciesism is no exception.
In modern day society, meat eating is the norm. Weddings, parties, Barbecues and any other gathering involving food in most societies and cultures have a constant factor. This factor is meat. It is ingrained to us that eating meat is a normal occurrence. Meat eating and animal exploitation is a norm now. These concepts are reinforced by other factors such as the patriarchy and religion. It is because of indoctrination that in certain cultures or societies eating certain animals is regarded as taboo. The speciesism jumps out when one in a primarily western culture is offered the flesh of animals such as cats or dogs but we don’t flinch when offered a a piece of chicken or beef. It’s the speciesists notion that eating the other animal for some other reason is wrong or in poor taste but when we look at it from a rational point of view, why can you eat a cow but not eat a dog? They’re both safe and in fact very nutritious but why can one be eaten and the other can’t? We’ve attached certain moral obligations to different species. Cats and dogs should be nurtured and protected but why do cows not deserve those same privileges? Perhaps you feel a cat or a dog may be more intelligent than a cow? Does a cow not being as intelligent as a dog by any means mean it’s any less sentient? The truth of the matter is that no animal wants to die. They’ve evolved to fear the concept of mortality like most humans. An animal in whatever capacity would do all it can to ensure it’s survival. This is why some animals attack you when they feel threatened or others feel. No matter how lowly you may think of an animals life, these creatures understand death. Most people don’t give this a thought. They say they love animals like cats or dogs or birds but would eat meat, hunt for gaming purposes and even wear the skins of some animals. A lot of people juggle through this train of mental gymnastics every single day.

This brings me to the second point; compartmentalization.
Compartmentalization is a psychological phenomenon that is meant to safe guard the mind against one thing. Cognitive Dissonance. Conflict within ones mind that arises when two or more conflicting notions are brought together at the same time. Compartmentalization prevents this by stopping the two notions to exist at the same time. One is pushed back into the subconscious state while the other is at the forefront. This is the case with a lot of speciesists. Some understand the moral implications of animal exploitation but compartmentalize as a safe guard.


Aside from philosophical arguments for animal welfare, there’s also the scientific and statistical evidence showing that activities such as livestock raring has an adverse effect on the environment. According to the USDA, National agricultural statistics service, between the 1st of January to The 18th of May 2019 approximately 42,000000 livestock (including red meat and poultry) have been slaughtered. The numbers are expected to skyrocket during the festive months of the year. This is just data for the US alone. It takes about 1,799 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, 576 gallons of water to produce one pound of pork as opposed to 108 gallons of water that produces one pound of corn. This is statistical data provided by National Geographic (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/food/). As we know fresh water fresh water is a renewable yet limited source. It’s renewable in the sense that the water cycle continues but it’s limited because as we know only 3% of the worlds water is fresh and available. 75% of that 3% of available fresh water exists in glaciers. As you can see the amount of water being used in meat production is quite frightening considering the fact we have limited options. Also we have to look at the adverse effects of livestock raring in relation to the release of greenhouse gases. As we know greenhouse gasses are bad for the environment as they are responsible for the warming up of the atmosphere which unfortunately creates global warming and the inevitable climate change. As reported by the New York Times in 2018, 14.5-18% of greenhouse gases induced by humans (as we know methane is released from animal waste and methane is a greenhouse gas).This is a scary statistic. The hard truth is that you can’t be an environmentalist if you still contribute to the meat eating culture. Now the argument for animal welfare isn’t only beneficial to animals but to humanity and life present on earth. It’s a humanist problem now.
The way forward, idealistically speaking would be for humans to adopt a meatless diet. That way resources wasted would be drastically reduced and distributed proportionally. Statistical data shows that the grains used to feed livestock in the US can feed about 800million people in other parts of the world. Try to imagine the power and implications that could have. The less privileged territories that have to rely on livestock farming won’t because of availability of food. Hunger in entire regions could be completely eradicated.

Unfortunately the world doesn’t work on noble ideals. The truth of the matter is that a lot of people are unwilling to give up meat entirely. Besides the selfishness or classism of people, the money made with meat production is just to important to the capitalist world we live in. The global meat production industry is estimated to be valued at $714.00 billion as of 2016 and that number is only going to grow because there is an increase in demand. Billions of dollars would be made at the expense of animal lives and the empty stomachs of the less privileged.
Despite the sacrifices of vegans and vegetarians who’ve forsaken the meat eating culture entirely, the number isn’t growing. A lot of people are still unwilling to change and quite a large number of people are not informed. Brian Kateman came up with an interesting term for the solution to this problem. “Reducetarian” was the word he came up with. A semi vegetarian diet that promotes a conservative lifestyle for the environment. It’s a meet in the middle concept. Although I always promote vegetarianism or veganism, I understand that it’s not possible for everyone to adopt a meatless diet. In the end it’s a compromise to fix the environment.
Speaking to the conscience of the reader is it really enough? Given the fact that animals are still dying. We have to ask ourselves where does our moral guidance stop as humans and society. We fight for social justice but turn a blind eye when we are not on the direct receiving end of the help. No animal wants to die. No animal wants to be exploited. We should look passed our own egos as human beings and understand that we are not at the center of the ecosystem. We don’t own earth. We aren’t superior to the beasts of the land. A chicken sees the world through the capacity of a chicken, the same way you as a human observe the world through the capacity of a human. We are cohabitants. We live on the same planet. We have a moral obligation to protect and conserve it thanks to our privilege from evolution. We have the ability to make the biggest impact on it. In the words of the late and great Friedrich Nietzsche “Man is the cruelest animal”.
This is our chance as humans to break that notion and show empathy, not just for one another but for the sentient non human life we share our home with.

As we know fresh water fresh water is a renewable yet limited source. It’s renewable in the sense that the water cycle continues but it’s limited because as we know only 3% of the worlds water is fresh and available. 75% of that 3% of available fresh water exists in glaciers. As you can see the amount of water being used in meat production is quite frightening considering the fact we have limited options. Also we have to look at the adverse effects of livestock raring in relation to the release of greenhouse gases. As we know greenhouse gasses are bad for the environment as they are responsible for the warming up of the atmosphere which unfortunately creates global warming and the inevitable climate change. As reported by the New York Times in 2018, 14.5-18% of greenhouse gases induced by humans (as we know methane is released from animal waste and methane is a greenhouse gas).This is a scary statistic. The hard truth is that you can’t be an environmentalist if you still contribute to the meat eating culture. Now the argument for animal welfare isn’t only beneficial to animals but to humanity and life present on earth. It’s a humanist problem now.
The way forward, idealistically speaking would be for humans to adopt a meatless diet. That way resources wasted would be drastically reduced and distributed proportionally. Statistical data shows that the grains used to feed livestock in the US can feed about 800million people in other parts of the world. Try to imagine the power and implications that could have. The less privileged territories that have to rely on livestock farming won’t because of availability of food. Hunger in entire regions could be completely eradicated. Unfortunately the world doesn’t work on noble ideals. The truth of the matter is that a lot of people are unwilling to give up meat entirely. Besides the selfishness or classism of people, the money made with meat production is just to important to the capitalist world we live in. The global meat production industry is estimated to be valued at $714.00 billion as of 2016 and that number is only going to grow because there is an increase in demand. Billions of dollars would be made at the expense of animal lives and the empty stomachs of the less privileged.
Despite the sacrifices of vegans and vegetarians who’ve forsaken the meat eating culture entirely, the number isn’t growing. A lot of people are still unwilling to change and quite a large number of people are not informed. Brian Kateman came up with an interesting term for the solution to this problem. “Reducetarian” was the word he came up with. A semi vegetarian diet that promotes a conservative lifestyle for the environment. It’s a meet in the middle concept. Although I always promote vegetarianism or veganism, I understand that it’s not possible for everyone to adopt a meatless diet. In the end it’s a compromise to fix the environment.
Speaking to the conscience of the reader is it really enough? Given the fact that animals are still dying. We have to ask ourselves where does our moral guidance stop as humans and society. We fight for social justice but turn a blind eye when we are not on the direct receiving end of the help. No animal wants to die. No animal wants to be exploited. We should look passed our own egos as human beings and understand that we are not at the center of the ecosystem. We don’t own earth. We aren’t superior to the beasts of the land. A chicken sees the world through the capacity of a chicken, the same way you as a human observe the world through the capacity of a human. We are cohabitants. We live on the same planet. We have a moral obligation to protect and conserve it thanks to our privilege from evolution. We have the ability to make the biggest impact on it. In the words of the late and great Friedrich Nietzsche “Man is the cruelest animal”.


This is our chance as humans to break that notion and show empathy, not just for one another but for the sentient non human life we share our home with.

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2 Comments

  1. Hmm it looks like your website ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I
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    1. Hello Nestor, sorry about the lost comment.
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